Chris and I just got back from another trip out to the Pacific Northwest, and yet again I am convinced this is the most naturally beautiful part of the country. We hopped on a plane out of Austin on a Thursday evening, and after a five or six hour delay in Denver due to massive thunderstorms (allowing us to watch Game 4 of the NBA Finals), we arrived in Seattle around 2:30 in the morning. Luckily, I had booked us a room at the Hilton Airport and Conference Center on Priceline (for a grand total of $58!) so we caught the shuttle to the hotel and crashed. Around 9 the next morning my brother called and said he’d be there to pick us up shortly to begin our adventure down to the Central Oregon Coast.
No great adventure can start without full bellies, so we decided to stop first for breakfast in Olympia at an old favorite — McMenamin’s Spar Cafe. My brother and I split an order of the biscuits and gravy, and I had an over-easy egg and hashbrowns on the side. Who would have thought I could get one of the best biscuits and gravy I’ve had outside of Texas…let alone in the Pacific Northwest? It was delicious. The thick, dense biscuits were covered in a hearty sausage gravy and topped with crumbled bacon and green onions. Upon first seeing the plate my brother and I both thought there was no way SPLITTING this dish would fill us up…but how wrong we were. It was delicious and filling. Chris got the chicken fried steak and eggs with hashbrowns. The crispy fried steak was covered in the same delicious gravy and, according to Chris, fantastic. Again, who would expect delicious chicken fried steak and eggs outside of Texas? I tried a bite — it was indeed delicious.
After breakfast we made a pit stop at the local camping/outdoors store in Olympia for camp fuel and a few bag dinners, stopped by my brother’s place to load up his stuff, and then we headed down I-5 toward Oregon. We cut over to Highway 101 through Corvallis, Oregon on 20. At Newport, we stopped by a grocery store for a few more provisions then headed south on 101 until we made it to the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park. They had one walk-in campsite left so we decided to take it. Although the campsites were somewhat close together, the campground was beautiful, and there were so many big trees and slight elevation changes within the campground itself it didn’t feel too terribly crowded. I also liked how the drive-in campsites were completely separate from the walk-in sites. We dropped our stuff at the site, threw a wine bottle and
cork screw in a day pack, and walked over to the beach to take in the sunset on the Pacific.
We walked all the way down the coast to some rocks covered with birds, then headed back and found a nice little spot to sit and enjoy the sunset with a little red wine.
It was lovely. When the sun was almost gone we decided to head back to set up camp. We munched on chips and salsa as we got a nice fire going in the fire pit, then whipped up some bean and cheese burritos for dinner. That really hit the spot.
That night I had maybe one of the best nights of sleep while camping ever. Whether it was the sound of the waves on the coast all night, the softness of the ground in the campsite, the perfect cool temperature, the popping and crackling of the slowly-dying fire, the sound of the light drizzle on the tent in the early morning hours, or the fact that I was really tired from a long day of travel, I don’t know…but it was wonderful. I woke up refreshed and ready to go. However, the early morning drizzle turned into a bit more of a heavy drizzle, so we opted to hop in the car and head up to Yachats to look for a good cup of coffee…and find one we did.
We happened to stop into this wonderful coffee shop and bakery called The Green Salmon — great coffee and perhaps even better baked goods. I was only going to get coffee, but after sampling Matt’s maple croissant, I had to order something too. I got a cinnamon croissant and it was flaky (but did not just explode into crumbs when you bit into it), buttery, cinnomony, and delicious. After coffee we headed back to camp and set out on the hike to the Heceda Head Lighthouse. The hike starts out in the forest just down from the entrance to the park. This part of the hike is easy and absolutely gorgeous.
We encountered tons of salamanders in the path and found them quite difficult to see (they either looked like the ground or like sticks on the ground) — that, coupled with the fact that they moved incredibly slowly, kept us on our toes as we tried our best not to step on any. After a few miles the trail crossed 101 and started into the woods on the other side of the road. We quickly started going up and found ourselves high above the beach.
A little bit further, and we were at the lighthouse.
We spent at least an hour exploring the beach and the tide pools below the lighthouse.
I had never seen starfish or anemones outside of an aquarium…so cool!
On our way back, we took the Hobbit Trail fork to the beach (the fork is on the beach-side of 101 along the Heceda Head Lighthouse Trail). The entire hike was around 6 miles and except for portions near the lighthouse, is easy. The entire hike is incredibly beautiful. As always happens with me in the Pacific Northwest, I am struck by the green, by the amount of life everywhere…not to mention seeing spruce, firs, ferns, moss, rocks, and sandy beach all in one place. Amazing.
After the hike we had perhaps our one big food miss of the trip — the greasy eggs. The plan was to have our late breakfast of tacos back at the campsite, so we cooked up some bacon on our little single burner, and this is where I made my big mistake. I should have known better. Even as I type this, I’m getting a little bit sick to my stomach. For some unknown reason, I decided we did not need to pour out any of the bacon grease before cooking the eggs…so we just dumped 6 eggs into the grease and started cooking. I can still see those eggs, floating in the grease…Matt had the great idea that we just add six more eggs, and maybe then there would not be so much grease. So we added more eggs and cooked away. They eventually firmed up and we mixed back in the bacon and added cheese, threw the mixture in tortillas and topped with salsa…but one bite and, as Matt put it, it felt like you put a thick coating of chap stick on. Yuck. But of course we ate them. And then felt kind of gross for a while…
Once we finally felt like we could move around somewhat, we decided this would be a good opportunity to get in the car and see what we could see along 101. I had read about the Sea Lion Caves (world’s largest sea lion cave, woo hoo!) so we drove a few miles south and found the crowded parking lot, looked around at the cheesy signs, and decided to skip it. Instead, we headed up to Devil’s Churn for a while and then Strawberry Hill. Both spots were beautiful, and did not cost $11 per person.
For dinner that night we did our bag meals (even though we had scrapped our backpacking plans, the backpacking dinners came in handy) by another great fire then enjoyed good old-fashioned smores. Then we enjoyed burning marshmellows for a while…
After another great night of sleep, we packed up and headed back to the Green Salmon in Yachats for more great coffee and pastries, then kept on going until we got to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. I love aquariums, and this one was very impressive. First, they had otters, perhaps my favorite animal. Look at this fat and happy guy! Second, the indoor deep sea life display was awesome. Most of the tanks had beautiful blown glass pieces that, together with some creative lighting, made for some impressive displays. On top of that, so many of these creatures were just so beautiful and interesting… I was also able to touch (pet?) starfish, baby sharks, rays, and anemone (that was perhaps the strangest to feel — they stick to you). The shark display was also really cool — sharks along with the bizarre-looking flounder and other big fish swim all around you.
Once we’d seen the entire aquarium (at a very reasonable $13.25 with a AAA discount, I might add), we got back on the road and stopped for lunch In Corvallis at American Dream Pizza. While Chris’s and my pizza was only so-so (when you order by the slice it seems like they just throw some toppings on top of cheese pizza), Matt’s calzone looked pretty tasty. I was also impressed by the photos of President Obama eating there on a campaign stop, and the roof-top table was a great spot in this cute town. The weather was gorgeous — sunny but cool. I bet Oregon State is a fun place to go to school…
We made it back to Olympia around 6 or so, got cleaned up, then walked over to Fish Tales for dinner. Fish Tales is a casual pub-style place with great beer and good food. I had the fish and chips, Chris had oysters and chips, and Matt had the portabella mushroom burger. Matt and I both enjoyed a couple of pints.
The next day, we headed back to our favorite spot — McMenamin’s — for breakfast. This time I had the scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, green onions, and cream cheese. Chris opted for the biscuits and gravy. Matt went with a standard eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and toast breakfast. As usual, the meal was terrific.
After breakfast we hit the road for our next hike — the Hama Hama Trail in the Olympic National Forest (I’ve also seen Hamma Hamma and I’m not sure which one is right…perhaps the both are?). It took us about an hour or two to get to the trailhead off of 101 on the Olympic Peninsula. This hike was intense, but the reward was well worth it. The trail starts out at a gentle but steady incline for maybe a mile, and then the serious incline starts. It was probably two or more miles of up, and up, and up…I had to stop and catch my breath and let the burning in my legs die down a bit quite a few times! There were even a few challenging spots over streams, alongside drop-offs, and up rocks (one where you had to use a rope — very fun!). Near the top we started encountering patches of snow — much less snow than two weeks earlier, according to my brother (who, incidentally, has seen a bear both times he’d been out on this trail before — both in the past month — while I was a little anxious about a bear encounter, and it certainly seemed likely along this secluded trail, I have to say I’m disappointed now that we didn’t see one). At the top of the mountains we arrived at Angel Lake, and while I’m trying not to sound like a broken record, I can’t help it — it was beautiful. Waterfalls all around us, patches of snow on the ground and all over the higher peaks, a serene lake high above the trailhead…just breathtaking.
The hike down was almost as challenging as the hike up — perhaps not as tiring on the hamstrings and glutes, but I nearly went down on loose rocks a few times (okay, I did go down once, but it was a quick down and bounce right back up), and after a while my legs felt like pure wobbly jello. It was much easier to descend with my knees slightly bent the whole time so as to bob up and down as little as possible, but that was quite a workout. It was, however, much quicker than the hike up and it seemed like we were down in no time.
On our drive back, we stopped at a burger place right on 101 in Hoodsport. I can’t remember the name, but it’s a tiny little town and it was right off of 101 with lots of outdoor seating. The burger hit the spot and the crinkle cut fries took me back to my childhood.
After this late lunch/early dinner, my brother drove us all the way back to our hotel by the Seattle Airport and Chris and I settled in for some relaxing before our day of travel the following day. The Hilton by the airport has a nice outdoor pool and hot tub — perfect for our tired legs. The next day we made it home with no real delays — our flight had to hold outside of Denver due to more thunderstorms, but we had such a long layover it made no difference to us (other than cause me slight anxiety). We made it home by midnight and thus another trip to the beautiful Pacific Northwest came to a close.